Is Business Analysis Certification worthwhile?

Is Business Analysis Certification worthwhile?Photo by Martin Fisch

Is it worth while getting certified in Business Analysis? In this post, I highlight some key comments made on this subject in a LinkedIn discussion.

Is Business Certification worthwhile?

There is a perennial discussion about the value of certification.

In the realm of Business Analysis, you can get certified by the IIBA, the BCS, the PMI, the IREB. All certifications have their own flavour and value. For me, the value of a certification is in showing me what I could be, and not what I was. (Here are some more of my thoughts on it).

With regards to the value of certification, Paul Loney, an interesting chap with a beard, an incredible breadth of experience in Business Analysis, and a call-it-as-he-sees-it attitude made an excellent comment in a LinkedIn discussion.

Setting the Scene

To set the scene –  Esta Lessing had written a post titled “What every Business Analyst should know about certification paths, Business Analysis training courses and ultimately your career.

She published it, and also posted a link to the article in a Business Analysis group on LinkedIn. 

And then the discussion started…


If you are in the world of Business Analysis, you might be aware that recently there has been a bit of a shake-up with regard certification. (You can read more about it here, here, here)

So now it looks like Business Analysis certification is becoming diluted. There is a certain confusion about what is what. And what was interesting in the discussion was there was hardly a mention about which certification was the best. It was more about whether certification itself was necessary. 

James Shield made a few pertinent remarks:

I hope certification doesn’t become a ‘tax’ on the profession in that it must be obtained

… undertaking a BA certification is by no means the only path to self-development …

And he makes a good point.

This was amplified by Paul (who I mentioned above)

As I’ve coached, mentored, and supervised entry-level and junior BAs over the years I have always concentrated on their THINKING capability as being a preeminent professional asset to develop. And following on from that their people AWARENESS in every way.

My goal was that they should have the resilience and adaptability to virtually be dropped into any BA scenario and hit the ground running. No panicking. Quick assessment of what they did and did not know. Ability to establish trust and rapport. Reach out to SMEs. Ability to abstract and normalise information from real-world scenarios. Hold high-level viewpoints in-hand with detailed dives, and juggle these granularities. Attention to detail. Ability to question (Why, why, why?). Get into the mind of others. Seek effective communication through visualisation. Be pragmatic. Sense of humour!

This is what you want to work with. This is who you’ll gladly have a pint with after work!


As you read, James and Paul’s opinion is that being a good BA is actually more than just having a piece of paper with your name on it, along with the name of a particular certification body.

And – is Business Analysis certification worth it?

There are those who are certified that feel that it is definitely worthwhile. Currently, I hold CBAB certification from the IIBA, and I found the process of getting it valuable.

However, when I read Paul and James comments I found myself nodding. They make some valid points.

SECRET! – Leo Hitchcock has written a very interesting book in which he discusses the value of industry certification. I will be blogging about this soon. 

Best Approach

The best idea is to explore, yourself, what the true value of certification will offer.

A lot of people fall victim to the “if you don’t have the certification, then you can’t get a job” syndrome. However, the same is also true for the other extreme. There are those who are certification

However, the same is also true for the other extreme. There are those who are certification junkies and feel the need to just get the certification so that they can add letters to the end of their name. Which one are you?


What are your thoughts? Is certification valuable? Do you agree with Paul, or James (or me)?

Let me know in the comments


Is this a sign that the PMI's BA certification is of more value?

Venus and Mars

In a recent ProjectTimes articleKiron Bondale described the oft-seen misalignment between Project Managers and Business Analysts.

In his article, he lists some comments made by each about the other…

Continue reading

What value does the Certified Information Professional offer?

Since I obtained my Certified Information Professional certification (woot!) I have been trying to find ways to describe, to executive management, the value that this certification offers.

A few of the blog posts I have written so far have definitely helped (see reference below), but John Mancini has recently created a slideshare presentation that sums it up nicely:

Related articles

I’m not a “late adopter” – I’m a “Late Bloomer”

I’ve never really been into FaceBook.

I didn’t start using Twitter till 2010.

And the whole iPod / iTunes thing (that is – before the iPhone came out) was totally unknown to me. Those around me would look perplexed when I responded “Huh” to any conversation on this.

“Web 2.0” was alien to me (hell – what happened to 1.0?). “Gamification” sounded like something cute, and as far as I was concerned the “Cloud” was something that got in the way of the sun.

I felt that I was an “old fuddy duddy”, a dinosaur, a relic from a simpler time (just to be melodramatic).

However, I knew that I had to come to terms with this new “fad”. If only to be able to talk with others in my field.

When I first started tweeting, I remember I was shocked when I got my first “follower” (“Who is this person? “How did they find me?”). It was also around this time that I started blogging. I wasn’t really sure why, but it was a way to “put down on paper” what my thoughts were regarding the technology I work with.

It always bothered me that I seemed to be always ‘lagging”. That new things were coming out, and I was never an “Early Adopter”. Never on the cutting edge. 

Then, last year, I read Malcom Gladwell’s book “What the Dog Saw”. Chapter 8 is titled “Late Bloomers”.

In it he talks about creativity, and describes some findings economist David Galeson had made in the world of art.  Of the famous artists, there were those who did their best work when they were young, who knew what they wanted to achieve (Picasso), and then there were those who didn’t do their best work till much later (Cezanne).

It seemed that the younger “prodigies” start with a clear idea of where they want to go, and then they execute it.

On the other hand, the older “late bloomers” have imprecise goals, and tend to “explore” in a tentative, and an incremental, way.  And, for these artists, because the goal is imprecise, they never actually get to a point where they say. “Goal achieved!” They just keep exploring, testing and discovering along the way.

This really struck me as interesting. It made me look at what I have been doing. As I mentioned above, I never started out with a goal when I started my blog. I never had an idea what I would be doing with Twitter.

But, looking back, I can see a journey of incremental discoveries. The “subject matter” of my posts were, initially, to do with “document management in a regulated environment”. But as I have done research on this, it has lead to other areas that, while not directly related, have a tenuous link with the initial concept. And these have, in turn, taken me to other, loosely connected, areas of interest.

This “way of learning”, this “exploration”, is a good example of “naturalistic vs. mechanistic” learning. It is my own passion, my own interest that is leading me on this journey. And I get the feeling that it has given me a far better (may I say “wiser”) view of things, and how they can be used, and applied in real-life situations.

I am proud to call myself a “Late Bloomer

Other interesting “Late Bloomer” posts

  • Gladwell’s Article “Late Bloomers”
  • Why Are Some People Late Bloomers? Part 1
  • Why Are Some People Late Bloomers? Part 2
  • Confessions of a Late Bloomer
  • How to Succeed in Life as a Late Bloomer

Scrum Master Training – my impressions

In my earlier posts (here, here, or here) you can read how I have recently “discovered” Agile/Scrum

Having seen the challenges that can be encountered with the Waterfall, or PRINCE2, model, I am keen to learn more about this alternative approach. To that end, I sent myself off on a Scrum Master course.

In this post I want to give my impression of the training course – what was good about it, what worked, what didn’t, and what was wrong with the course.

Before I do, I need to clarify that these are my own opinions and not those of my anyone else that I have regular, or irregular contact with.

Also, please note that I won’t be going into the merits, or shortcomings of Scrum. I won’t be entering into the “discussion” taking place in the Project Management community surrounding the Scrum Master Certification. Nor will I be giving a blow-by-blow account of the 2 days.

Course Appraisal

Course Name: Certified Scrum Master Course

Course Provider: Collabnet – a reasonably large company that specializes in collaboration software development. Agile training is also part of their offerings, and they give courses in multiple locations in North America and Europe.


Training Location

The training course was help in a conference room in a Marriott hotel. This meant that there were excellent refreshments, and a great lunch. (Always an important factor when attending such an event.)


For this course, the trainer was Rafael Sabbagh Armony.

I was very impressed with his style of teaching he used. The training material he gave us seemed to be merely a formality as not once did Rafael refer to it. His style was more an interactive one. Through a series of “group exercises” he created an environment of learning through exploration, questioning, and peer-learning.

Obviously, a group exercise is a very contrived event and has very little resemblance to a “real world” equivalent, but in the process of working through the exercise, it encourages one to relate it to other situations (perhaps ones that are based in the real-world). This fostered further questioning, and discussion (both within the group, and within the whole class.

Rafael seemed very knowledgeable in his subject (Agile) and drew upon real-life situations that he had been involved in, when discussing SCRUM, both in answering individual questions, or contributing to one of the many class discussions.

Course Content

On the understanding that the course was focused on a Scrum Master, and was not an overview of Agile, or even Scrum itself, I did feel that, at the end of the course, I had a far-better understanding of this Framework.

One interesting thing was that, after registering for the course, I received access to a collection of on-line Scrum training material. This included a Scrum quick-reference guide, and a series of training videos, that took me through the fundamentals of Scrum.

Knowing very little about Scrum at this point, I found these resources to have a lot of value. It also meant that, during the training course itself, time was spent with “group exercises” (see above), and discussion, rather than going through the basics.

Could be better

Classroom Material

On the first day of the class, we were each given the course notes. These were in color (always helps), but had a thermal bind cover on them. While keeping the pages together in a very tidy fashion, it meant that for you to lay the “book” open fully, you had to damage the spine and binding material.


Left hand oblivious to what the right hand is doing

While Collabnet describe themselves as “The Leader in Agile Development in the Cloud” they came across as a organization made up of business units that seemed to have absolutely no idea what the other business units were doing. They also didn’t appear to have a coördinated approach to dealing with customers.

My point in case is this: On the 6th of December, I registered, and paid, for this course, and immediately received a confirmation from the department that handles course registration. This was as expected. However, on the 12th of December (less than a week later) I received a promotional e-mail from Collabnet offering me a 40% discount if I “book now!”

I was furious. A 40% discount was quite a lot (especially when I was, indirectly, paying for the course myself). I contacted Collabnet and asked why I wasn’t told about this when I first registered, and requested the same discount. The response I got was a simple “Sorry – we can’t retroactively apply the discount”! Unbelievable! (Maybe I was asking the wrong person, but then I would have expected my e-mail to be forward to the correct person, and to get a response from them.)

And to make matters worse, I still receive “promotional” announcements on a regular basis.

Socially Aware

One would expect any company that is involved with the “Cloud” to be socially aware. They do have a Twitter account (@Collabnet), but seem to use this merely as a “hey – look at us” type of account. I sent out a tweet about the 40% discount “complaint” I had, and even included “@Collabnet”. Did I get a reaction? No. This gave me the impression that Collabnet were not responsive to their customers.

Spelling. Grammar, Images

The training notes were full of typographical errors.

At the time, this did not cause too much concern (My recommendation is to check out something that most businesses that provide material to customers, and the public – a spellchecker. It doesn’t take long to do it, and, in many cases can be initiated by just clicking on a menu item.

The fact that there were many, many spelling mistakes is, in this case, not of too much concern. As I mentioned above, Rafael delivered the course without referring to the notes, and did it in such a way that the real value came from what he was saying, rather than what we were reading.

However, having words incorrectly spelt (especially in your course material) does send a poor message. And it does not take long to run a spell check over the content before “publishing” it.

With regards “images” – I have only one small complaint – make sure the images used don’t cover up the text (especially when they are being used on a page that discusses “transparency”).


Overall, I was satisfied with the course.

Having the pre-course training material available was excellent. I was really happy with that.

The classroom training, as delivered by Rafael, was also very good. I did not walk away at the end it feeling unsatisfied. The method of delivery was great, Rafael didn’t just “read from the book”

However, the “Bad” points I mentioned are worth thinking about. Collabnet came across as a Big Company that didn’t really care about its little customers.

  • Managing Agile Teams with Project Managers
  • CollabNet adds Scrum tech provider
  • Scrum

Is Microsoft a Religious Experience?

A Tweet by @pelujan the other day started me thinking. The tweet was:

I responded to his tweet because I do remember “workflo”. It was something that FileNet developed back in 1985. I admit that this was indeed 10 years before I got into IT (having spent those 10 years doing stuff in laboratories), but I was very aware of it as it played a big part in a lot of their technology.

In fact, my first introduction to ECM was PC Docs, and also FileNet’s early Content Management application “Saros Mezzanine”. This was followed by their Image Management Services application running on an AIX system. It stored scanned images on WORM disks in an OSAR unit, and had a robotic arm jukebox. It was a bloody impressive , but also daunting, system (especially when you are new on the job, and you’ve been told to support this system at a very hostile client site).

Over the years I got more an more involved with FileNet and their products, getting to know the idiosyncrasies of each one. I worked as a consultant, and each client had its own unique requirements, environments, and situations.  Very often I would go home  at the end of the day feeling beaten up.

At the end of 2006 I moved into a position working with Documentum, and quickly after, SharePoint. However, this time, I was the client, and so if something didn’t work, someone else was responsible for “fixing it”. This gave me more time to think about the potential of the systems in terms of the industry I was now working in. I actually went home feeling a lot more relaxed.

Now, the one thing that always struck me, when I was working with FileNet, was that, compared to a Microsoft product, there was not a lot of material available. The majority of what you learnt came about through personal experience. You were on the battle field getting the scars. You felt that you had “earned it”.

Of course, there were forums available, and FileNet themselves had a great store of answers to questions, etc. (I used to trawl their partner site just to pick up nuggets of knowledge). Documentum (now EMC) have the same thing which I still use.

At the end of the last century (gawd – that sounds awful) I got my MCSE, and have kept up to speed with Microsoft technology since then. In 2007 I developed a Portal site that hooked into Documentum, and then, having got some scars with that, I got my SharePoint 2007 certification.

Is Microsoft a Religious experience?

Now I am trying to build up my knowledge of SharePoint 2010. This time I’m trying to take a more business application view of the technology. I did AIIM’s SharePoint Master course, which gives a more “real” view of SP2010, especially with regards to Document Management. (See this post, and this one.) However, I realise that it’s still handy to have the MS certification under my belt, so I am working towards Microsoft SP2010 certification also.

I’m don’t want to pay for a course, and so I’m using the over-abundant resources that can be found on the internet (white papers, MS videos, MS learning material, etc). The more material I cover the more I am aware that the same message is being thrown at me – “how great SharePoint 2010 is”. (I’m not going to get into a discussion regarding this, as this has been covered by multitudes of blogs and forums on the internet).

The fact is I find myself slowly, (and blindingly), convinced. I’ve started chanting the mantra, and doing the dance.

Microsoft has produced so much stuff on their latest “shiny object”. It’s amazing. There books, videos, whitepapers, forums, faqs, technet articles, etc, etc, etc. There is also a conference/user group/gathering for the devout, almost every second week. And there are “evangelists” – people who spread the Word.

Got to admit, I am going to one of these conferences in April – the Best Practices Conference, being held in London (#bpcuk). The US one has just finished, and I was following the tweet stream (#bpc11). The funny thing was – I got to the point where I was “religiously” checking on the progress of the conference, and the activities of the participants (albeit the more “tweetal”  – think of the word “vocal” but in terms of tweeting – amongst them). And I found myself just wishing I was there, wishing I was with these people and seeing, and sharing, what they were. (Quick – slap me!)

I never got this “ecstatic feeling” with FileNet. It was all mud and barbed wire. You were earning your stripes “old school”. And even though I have attended the Documentum user group conferences (Momentum) for a few years now (which is one of the high-points of my year – have only missed one over the last 5 years), I’ve never felt the (illogical, zealot-like) fervour that I am starting to experience now.

Related Links

  • Is the SharePoint Community Past Its Prime?
  • Best Practices Conference 2011 – Europe
  • Best Practices Conference 2011 (US) Twitter activity (thanks to @VeroniquePalmer)
  • Momentum (2010)
  • AIIM SharePoint Course

Quick and Angry – More on SCRUM


In connection with my last post (“Fast and Furious – SCRUM“, I found this video on YouTube.

It’s a great “SCRUM in 10 minutes” video.




SharePoint & Powershell – a great post from Joel Olesen

Joel Olesen (SharePointJoel) has a great post out about Powershell and SharePoint. It is packed choca-full with information about Powershell.

I really recommend it:


Mark J Owen LinkedIn: blog: twitter: @markjowen GuysFound this great post on Powershell for SharePoint:

Mark J Owen LinkedIn: blog: twitter: @markjowen

  • Use PowerShell Cmdlets to Manage SharePoint Document Libraries – Hey, Scripting Guy! Blog – Site Home – TechNet Blogs (
  • Current Script Path in PowerShell (

… Day 1 continued – Training

Momentum EMC Documentum ECMS

In the afternoon, there were a number of “Tutorials”. I attended one entitled “Successful End User Rollout – EMC End User Enablement.

(When you register at the beginning of Momentum, you get the “Conference Guide”, a thick book containing the programme for each day, along with descriptions of the sessions, and oodles of other information. I am learning that there is a lot of value in actually reading the description of the sessions, rather than just the titles. While the tutorial I mentioned above wasn’t quite what I expected, it was still very valuable.)

“Successful End User Rollout” was about an important part of a project that often gets underestimated. User training. This session was given by Gunny Cameron, a lady who oozed passion for training. This came through in her delivery, and was great!

End-user training is something that is often the first victim in a project when budgets are stretched. If, for one reason or another, a cut has to be made in a project, it is Training that gets sacrificed. Often, the actual training given does not quite “enable users”. This can lead to poor adoption of the new system by the end-users because they do not understand it, with the result that a project can be deemed as having failed because the system “is too complex”, or not used properly.

Gunny presented a User Enablement Plan, that would lead to “Strong End User Adoption”. The key components of this are:

  • Curriculum Development – PADDIE.
  • Power User Training (prepare someone to be the “Go-To” person).
  • Train the Trainer
  • Web Based – make standard modules, and modify them for different situations as required.

PADDIE – the acronym for the model used for Curriculum Development. This includes:

  • Plan – Identify training needs
  • Analyze – Assess current situation, identify roles, envision the future, etc.
  • Design – Create learning objectives, and determine the approach used for giving the training (instructor, led, web based, hands –on, demonstration/stimulation).
  • Develop Content – also take into account job aids, and a glossary of terms.
  • Implement
  • Evaluate – how do you know whether the training has been successful. Is there something measurable?

Obviously Momentum is to promote EMC (and its partners), so there was a subtle push for EMC’s own training and education services, but sometimes it makes sense to get the “people who know a product inside out” to be involved with preparing training material because they know the product well (and have the technical resources to call upon when necessary).

After the tutorial session, I was able to talk to Gunny. The main question I had was, actually, about her name. As it tuns out her real name is Guvnor Cameron. It is a Swedish name.